Media, Politics, Social Science

Sam Harris was Right; Ezra Klein Should Know Better

Earlier this week, Ph.D. neuroscientist turned pop-philosopher Sam Harris invited Vox Editor-at-Large Ezra Klein to debate Harris on his popular podcast. The topic: Harris’s decision to feature Charles Murray for the purposes of defending him— from charges of racism, on his show last year. Murray is famous in part for writing The Bell Curve, which included a controversial chapter which mentions racial differences in IQ. But this isn’t Klein’s first flirtation with character assassinations.

In case you missed it, Harris and Klein have been feuding publicly since Murray appeared on Harris’s show last year. Vox published a piece attacking Harris for featuring Murray, accusing the two of participating in “pseudoscientific racialist speculation.” Vox then refused to publish a rebuttal written by Richard Haier, respected psychologist and editor-in-chief of the scientific journal Intelligence. (It finally found a home at this publication, here.) Next, Harris released his email correspondence with Klein, and that eventually led to this week’s heated podcast. Mid-way through the podcast, Harris says:

you appear to be willing to believe people… are not speaking with real integrity about data because it serves political ends, and you appear to be willing to help destroy people’s reputations who take the other side of these conversations.

Throughout the conflict, Harris has argued that false claims of racism represent a moral panic that can severely damage the lives of real people, including Murray and himself. Instead, he believes we should dispassionately analyze facts as they are, i.e. scientists need to be able to be scientists. Meanwhile, Klein sees Murray’s scholarship as a tool to harm African Americans, which he justifies by citing Murray’s libertarian beliefs in shrinking government welfare programs.

That view cuts to the core of the difference between the Right and the Left on economic policy: The Right believes a smaller government and a less regulated economy can benefit everyone, especially impoverished minorities who have the most to gain. The Left believes a larger government, along with taxpayer-funded social welfare programs, are the only way to reverse the disparate impact of generations of racism.

The Left, however, is unique in attributing racist tendencies to those who disagree. Ezra Klein is no stranger to this practice, and he’s well aware of how opinion journalists will work together to amplify such slanderous accusations; he witnessed it on his very own platform.

Before founding Vox, Ezra Klein gained notoriety for starting an online listserv for progressive journalists called “JournoList.” Leaked messages from The Daily Caller showed some left-wing opinion journalists in the group attempted to coordinate messages, and suggested members to use certain angles to push their political agendas. JournoList counted influential liberal spokesmen such as Eric Alterman of The Nation, Jeffrey Toobin of CNN, and Paul Krugman of the New York Times, as members.

During the 2008 elections, when Obama’s connection to controversial pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright entered the news, Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent messaged:

What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. In other words, find a rightwinger’s [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear. Obviously I mean this rhetorically.

And I think this threads the needle. If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they’ve put upon us. Instead, take one of them Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares and call them racists.

Sound like a familiar tactic?

After the JournoList story broke, Ezra Klein shut it down, but then the current Vox editor, Matthew Yglesias, headed up the former members to coordinate their responses in their various outlets to the controversy. Yglesias has also since attacked Harris as a racist on Twitter.

Not all JournoList members agreed on every tactic, and I don’t use its example to allege a vast-left-wing conspiracy, but I use it to show that Ezra Klein and Matthew Yglesias are familiar with the tactic of slandering opponents as racist and coordinating that narrative behind closed doors. Yet Klein denied doing the same thing to Harris and Murray on this week’s podcast.

Harris accused Klein of acting in bad faith, from the start of this dispute. He walked that back on this week’s podcast, but he was right the first time.

Klein ought to stop deploying the disingenuous journalistic practice of regurgitating falsehoods for political purposes. You’d have thought he’d have learned his lesson the first time with JournoList.

Sam Harris and Ezra Klein’s mutual friend Andrew Sullivan wrote a piece decrying what happened with JournoList: “what’s depressing is the way in which liberal journalists are not responding to events in order to find out the truth, but playing strategic games to cover or not cover events and controversies in order to win a media/political war.”

That quote could just as easily apply to what Klein and Vox have done to Harris and Murray.

 

Joseph is executive producer of “No Safe Spaces” a film starring Denis Prager and Adam Corolla. He is also film and video producer for the Capital Reseach Center and Dangerous Documentaries.

60 Comments

  1. Michael Carpenter says

    “That view cuts to the core of the difference between the Right and the Left on economic policy:” The distinction between Harris’s views and Murray’s should have been more clearly delineated here. Harris made it clear in the original podcast with Murray and with Klein that he does not subscribe to Murray’s economic/social policy opinions, quite the contrary. On those issues, Harris and Klein have much in common, as Harris also pointed out in their podcast

    • Agreed. Harris never really required Klein to respond to whether or not the statistics Murray and others cite are actually true. Whether true or not is crucial. Perhaps it is more crucial to evaluate the use to which statistics are put and the agendas they are trotted out to support. But Harris needs to force people to either agree or disagree with the basic contentions prior to moving from stats to interpretations of the stats.

      • RYAN says

        Well said. You’ve articulated my reaction to the podcast as well. Klein was strikingly evasive towards data that didn’t support his ideology. Never speaking directly to it. Yet quick to pull the trigger on data of his own .i.e. African Americans who earn more yet live in lower income neighborhoods, a study on submitting resumes with traditionally African American names etc.

    • ADM64 says

      This is true. Harris does not bring remotely the level of rationality to his views on politics and economics that he does on science. Einstein had the same problem.

      The empirical evidence overwhelmingly validates capitalist-small government positions compared to their statist alternatives. Murray’s research on that subject remains very strong (see “Losing Ground” amongst his other works). Murray is, in fact, the only one of the three whose commitment to rational inquiry remains consistent across the board. Klein is just a mediocre, power hungry, hateful zero.

      • mccannju says

        Curious about that empirical evidence ADM64? I’m firmly in the Undecided camp on this issue, but I’ve found the arguments of economically left-leaning thinkers like Ha-Joon Chang very persuasive.

        • harrync says

          I had never heard of Ha-Joon Chang; seems like I really should have. And given that most studies rate places like Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Canada, and Australia as the most happy and prosperous nations on earth, ADM64 must think they are “small government” nations.

          • They are small nations period… Therefore their government is small. Scale is relevant – the U.S. is huge and hugely diverse in comparison to the nations you cited. They are homogeneous (for now) and don’t have huge pockets of poverty like the U.S. or China or India. It’s just a canard to constantly compare small cold countries to the huge countries. Keeper movin…

          • mccannju says

            harrync, he wrote 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism. Great read.

    • JackbeThimble says

      Craig Willims that’s nonsense. Canada is just as ethnically diverse as the United States (both roughly 70% white), we have a historically poor and disadvantaged minority (5% of the population is native) and a third of our population speaks a different language. This diversity argument gets trotted out whenever an American has to deal with the fact that every other western country is better governed, you can’t pin it on the diversity sorry.

      • Chris W says

        the idea that Canada has even a comparable ethnic representation is ridiculous. 70% white does not denote equally diverse minority population. also the assumption that Canadas government is :better is subjective as hell and imho false. the potential for removing children from parents for not supporting adolescent transitions does not signal a good government. anyways Canada like the Scandinavian countries rely on us for military protection by and large. which is one of the few valid purposes of government. with that glaring lack of purpose and spending its easy to come up with feel good policies. also those that immigrate from those countries to America do better here than there so again not seeing your claim of better government being backed by data. also what constitutes happiness varies on the individual level and their expectations. if ur raised on overblown government you prob will grow to think that is normal and good. but when ur raised in a country built on individual freedoms prob not gonna be happy with the status quo of seize and redistribute. does that make you wrong? No. does that mean the people in homogenous insular countries have a better government ? No. it means they are different with different expectations. that’s it. you wanna compare governance than compare actual data of actually comparable countries like how tyrannical or not the government is or how well people can mobilize upwards. bs metrics like happiness in homogenous ethno states just serves to obfuscate the issue. as for diversity itself how are the Scandinavian countries enjoying their big push for diversity? oh yeah forgot we cant talk about that. wouldn’t want people talking about the problems of integrating wildy different cultures into western lands. wouldnt wanna be racist. except the ideas that diversity of race inherently adds value by virtue of itself is actually racist. diversity of thought matters diversity of race and cultures historically breeds conflict. and there is no more ethnically diverse nation in the world than the us. Canada isn’t even close. so when u say the diversity argument doesn’t matter your wrong and it explains a lot of the philosophical fractiousness of our current political climate.

      • Laura Servage says

        Agreed Canada is much more diverse than the other “small cold countries” Willms mentioned, but the scale of government thing idea is interesting. I hadn’t really thought of this before and its worth thinking about. If nothing else it points to the idea that we may have different understandings of what constitutes “big government” depending on our own contexts.

  2. Frank Tisdale says

    “”Klein sees Murray’s scholarship as a tool to harm African Americans, which he justifies by citing Murray’s libertarian beliefs in shrinking government welfare programs.””

    What if data showed that (gasp) shrinking government welfare programs HELPED African Americans?

    And what if it were pointed out that most people on welfare were white?

    https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/28/food-stamp-demographics_n_6771938.html

    He’d still shriek “racism!” because its the only tool in his intellectual toolbox.

    • and isn’t it racist to assume that shrinking government welfare programs hurts blacks?

      • Steven says

        Shrinking welfare hurts the poor, going by percentages, a larger percentage of African Americans live in poverty than Caucasians.

        Facts are not racist, Murray however clearly is.

        • Carlos Marrero says

          I think how “shrinking welfare hurts” is defined here is important, and worth discussion.

          In short term use not having welfare can hurt: if people are starving it is good to feed them in the moment, but what would be even more helpful long term is to “teach a man to fish.”

          I see people on “welfare” getting just enough to survive, and afraid to make more money (or make more out of themselves) because they are afraid of losing their meager “benefits.”

          I think welfare can be enabling, and help destroy the potential of its recipient. I see this as not so rare. In this sense, I actually think “welfare hurts.”

        • Jeremy H says

          “Facts are not racist, Murray however clearly is.”

          Murray isn’t in favor of just shrinking welfare he wants to replace it entirely with universal basic income. Where exactly does racism enter the picture?

  3. Tuang says

    “Ezra Klein should know better” is an odd title. There’s absolutely nothing about what he’s doing that he doesn’t understand. He’s not searching for truth, he’s fighting for control. He is fully committed to and experienced with the strategy of argumentation by “You’re wrong and I don’t have to provide an actual argument, because “shut up, racist, or you’ll be next!” overpowers any argument based merely on facts.”

  4. Chris says

    I felt like Klein and Harris’ podcast was relatively unproductive because they talked past each other in something that seemed like an intellectual power play-off. Harris consistently allowed Klein to avoid directly answering for “junk science” and “pseudoscientific racialist speculation” and (surprisingly given his general calm nature) fell victim to the back and forth of intellectual conflict.

    Klein also seems to have excellent audience positioning skills. An example is that multiple times Harris tried to cut Klein off stating that a “confusion” was present. At one point following Klein later said “this is what you would call a confusion” to undermine/challenge Harris’ position; using the opponents language in this way is genius. It’s quite the fascinating interaction.

    • Hutch says

      I agree that their level of interaction was laughable.

      Klein completely evaded Harris when asked how society is skewed when politically uncomfortable scientific data is uncovered. The Neanderthal concept was never even addressed but brought up maybe three times. I share Harris’ concerns that society is being geared to silence and persecute people regarding these uncomfortable truths. Society does however amplify any truths which play to the current Saturday morning cartoon morals adopted by most journalists.

      Klein came to shame Harris for his lack of empathy and failure to take cognisance of historical prejudice. This was a patently dishonest position. Klein didn’t want to argue science at all. Harris admitted that the social policies conceived upon Murray’s finding were a totally different subject and that’s when it was clear they weren’t on the same battlefield.

      Klein had some valid criticism (aside from the social policy stuff) of Murray’s work which went ignored by Harris as well. However Klein stayed more in the realm of Murray’s potential bias and social policy considerations.

      Harris’ intellectual shade was thrown when he put forward the position of “What if it was objectively concluded that people of Jewish origin are genetically inclined to hoard wealth as a result of genetic factors? Should people be persecuted for uncovering this?.” That honestly made the whole 2 hours worth it for me. This was obviously completely not addressed.

      • Totally agree about the Jewish reversal. Especially the West African sprinter comparison. I felt like up until that moment, Sam was speaking at a higher level of abstraction than Ezra that I suspected wouldn’t play to Ezra’s audience. But that argument landed. You could hear it in Ezra’s response. I hope it hit home with his listeners.

  5. Frank delaporte says

    It’s obvious Klein is a bad actor in all of this. Klein doesn’t play by any sort of ethical rule book and justifies it by conflating conservativism to racism. If racism is conservativism then all of Kleins unethical practices are a drop in the ocean to how bad racists are… Extremist ideology gets you to this point. This is how political wars start because people stop playing the rules. anyone that isn’t a social justice ideologue can easily see through the bs.

  6. Nicolas says

    Where is this right that believes in smaller government?

  7. It seemed that Harris was accusing Klein of being biased – a fair claim. Klein was accusing Harris of being biased *but not knowing it* – also a fair claim. They didn’t really talk about anything else.

  8. Max Rittmeister says

    The tactic of the left backfired really badly. By decrying everybody as racists, they watered down the term so much that people increasingly don’t care anymore. That is good for those falsely accused of racism and being a Nazi, it is not so good that actual racists and Nazis now get a sort of carte blanche.

    Imagine you are 16 and trying to find your way in the world, You watch YouTube videos and you are on twitter. By now you have already realized that it means absolutely nothing that one person is accused of racism. In fact, that person just became more interesting to you because obviously he must have said something that upset the leftist zealots, which you have already exposed as charlatans. It is easy to be attracted to actual fringe right wingers in such an environment.

  9. Benjamin Perez says

    Although my politics are closer to Ezra’s than they are to Sam’s, my ethics are closer to Sam’s than they are to Ezra’s. Ezra, like far, far too many of today’s progressives, tends to not only confuse but fuse topics and concerns—addiction to “mindreading” (commitment to an hermeneutics of suspicion) will do that. Alas, 21st-century progressivism, exemplified by Klein, strikes me as intellectually quite similar, structurally, to theology (ancient schools through modern): meaning well, as hard as one can, all the while becoming less and less honest—especially with oneself. Intellectual honesty, epistemological humility, and existential bravery must come before ideology. (If a fact rubs one’s ideology the wrong way, one should scratch the ideology, not the fact.) Parting advice to my fellow progressives: Check your facts, not your privilege—the former is possible, laudable, and all too rare; the latter is at best PC-faddism and at worst SJW-cry-bullyism. Put another way: If we can’t do better, then we’ll only do worse.

    • Theology deals with things that are of a different kind than “mere” matters of empirical fact. Godel established that for every possible non-trivial rational system there are necessarily statements which cannot be proved by said system, but which are nonetheless true. This is simply the nature of the cosmos. Theology attempts to grapple with this, no matter how distasteful it may be to those who cannot see beyond their deeply ingrained rationalism.

    • William Shepherd says

      Interestingly, Benjamin, your response tends to encapsulate precisely where the podcast “went off the rails” if you will. I felt like Harris came in looking to address the “chilling effect of name calling” that he felt was present in the original Vox article. Klein seemed more interested in defending the position that they were racists rather than addressing the “chilling” issue. Harris kept getting drawn into defending himself (and to a lesser degree, Murray) from the racist charges instead of maintaining the line of thought he’d originally wanted to address. It, ironically, was another form of this chilling effect. I can see where Klein is coming from in that he felt that calling the data racially motivated or biased could be a legitimate concern with the data (calling into question how or where the data comes from is acceptable) but he never really focused on the data, instead focusing on the people involved, which is precisely what concerns free speech advocates on this issue.

      • Carlos Marrero says

        Yes. I found myself getting angry while listening wanting Harris to simply ask: “do you agree with the data, yes or no?”

        Harris kept allowing Klein to slip out of answering that simple question by “conflating” and “confusing” data with politics. It was almost like Harris thought if he explained himself better Klein would then answer the question.

        I think Klein was purposely avoiding the core issue of whether the data was sound or not and that Harris should have used less words and simply repeated, “Klein: yes or no?” Then after Klein’s slippery response again ask, “Do you agree with the data, yes or no?” And not saying anything else until Harris recieved a “yes” or “no.” Then once given a “yes” or “no”, ask “why?” with as much precision.

        Too many words and explanations give your opponent more to work with dishonestly, which is exactly what Klein was trying to do whether he knows this about himself or not.

        Klein kept saying, “oh and I listen to your podcast, I like you Sam.” He’s so full of shit. Yeah I’m sure he has listened as research but you can’t disagree with someone’s core message that much and enjoy listening to them for 3 hours at a time, all the time. Especially since Harris’ core message is honesty and reason, which Klein apparently does not practice. God I used to like Klein/Vox a lot, clearly I wasn’t digging deep enough.

        I was disappointed with Harris in that I think he was capable of facilitating more progress.

        • Klein is smart enough to know better than to answer that question.

          If he does, then his veneer of “objectivity” vanishes. He looses credibility because if he says yes…his objections clear up as merely political.
          If he says no, then he has to explain why. He can’t, he doesn’t’ have the stones to come up with a rational (non-politically motivated) reason to object and again his objections come out as merely political confirmation bias (in this case, rejecting because it doesn’t fit his bias).

          Klein is smart enough to not want to play that losing game, because to him policy/politics is the ends and he’ll do anything to get to those ends.

  10. Marcus says

    Harris is now on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s hate watch for coming down on one side of a real debate between experts on how much we can increase general intelligence, and how much genes and environment play a role?

    Sounds legit. 👌🏼

    • MattW says

      @Marcus
      SPLC is just a fund raising institution for its own profit at this point. They yell ”racist” in order to get more donations.

  11. BriB says

    Can’t say i’m strongly on the side of either in this debate. But i was frustrated by Harris’s arrogance at objectivity.

    Harris, as a scientist, seems to ignore Klein’s point that scientific findings CAN have far-reaching negative ramifications despite the supposed “objectivity” of the data. In fact it’s dangerous to assume objectivity of the data, dangerous to assume one’s own lack of bias. Harris claims that Klein can’t view the data without engaging in (or something similar) yet the denial of EVERYONES intrinsic bias clouds Harris’s perspective on his own blind spots.

    Over and over a new era of research methods and perspective prove the previous era to be incorrect and archaic. Which isn’t a call of anti-intellectualism or anti-science – it’s an understanding of the difficulty or near-impossibility of eternal “truth” in scientific observation, especially in areas like those discussed by Klein/Harris.

    Klein does side step examples of neanderthals and the hypothetical “Jewish materialism.” I wish he’d addressed them because it’s important conversation about how this debate got started. If the neanderthal findings HAD gone the other way, as Harris continually used as an example, it would most definitely be a charged as dangerous finding. Not because it’s correct, because of its use as a justification of racial bias and lack of need for people to reflect on their own environmental advantages.

    • Joaquim C says

      UBI; That’s Hell paved with good intentions… to cut it short: no pain no gain, and no dignity.

  12. Ezra is a decent person as is Sam. To me, what Ezra fails to grasp is that his identity itself functions, or he positions himself, as a high-priest or pastor in an increasingly popular secular-religion that has been incubating in the academic and political left for the last few decades: the religion of Anti-Racism. He “humbly” calls out, or “compassionately” chides Sam for not attending carefully enough to the precepts of The New Evangelism :

    1- American and Western European White culture is eternally and uniquely damaged, shaped, stained and circumscribed by the Original Sin of historical oppression, which is inseperable from every facet of our Fallen World. Though shalt not question or doubt that all disparities between God’s Children are in some way due to Original Sin.

    2- As a member of the guilty oppressor class by dint of skin tone(class is not a relevant factor), Though shalt not talk of society or relate to existence without “centering” one’s Original Sin as the required subtext of all intellectual investigations into the world- The Knowledge of which must be consistently present in one’s daily landscape of emotions.

    3- Moral purity and good-gaith towards the downtrodden, can only be achieved and demonstrated by preforming ritual acts of contrition, self-flagellation, and also in the reprimanding of the Unfaithful.

    4- The multitudes of non-Believers must be educated by the Good News of Redemption, which is accomplished through The Conversation, leading to The Acknowledging of Original Sin, which while never erased, can be ameliorated by the continuous efforts of Confession.

    5- The constant tendency of Sinners is to stray from the tenets of Anti-Racism, such that a fervently devoted Missionaries must go forth into the world and Sermonize at every opportunity to the “savages” who are stubbornly resistant to constant remembrance of it’s totalizing Truth.

    6- The Great Day will come…… when all will be made good and right…. if only the Good News can conquer At Last.

    Amen.

  13. Mark Heslep says

    Klein should “know better”? Sure, like we say an arsonist should know better. Klein displays tyrannical malevolence. He did not have a couple too many drinks.

    • Are you actually familiar with Klein’s work? I’m a regular reader of Vox and listen to both Klein’s podcasts along with Harris’ “Waking Up.” Klein is not a wild-eyed SJW who falsely accuses people of racism to shut down conversation. He’s a center-left policy wonk who’s much more open-minded than purity-police progressives. In my opinion, both he and Harris made valid points in their exchange. Harris is right that we must accept scientific findings even when they contradict our ideological commitments, and that Vox unfairly implied that he (Harris) was motivated by racial animus (the Vox authors were careful to avoid explicitly accusing him or racism). Klein is correct that racial differences in IQ can only be understood in the context of historical and continuing deprivation and discrimination — although there may be population-level genetic differences that contribute to gaps in intelligence, we don’t yet have enough evidence to draw that conclusion. (As Harris repeatedly said in his podcast with Murray, he questions the wisdom of even pursuing this line of inquiry.) Klein is also right to argue that Murray’s speculations about race and IQ are not the product of disinterested empirical analysis; they’re used to support his political agenda. That doesn’t mean Murray is wrong, but his own ideological commitments are relevant to the conversation. Finally, I think Klein made a valid point about Harris over-identifying with Murray and being unwilling to acknowledge his own biases. I have deep respect for Harris, but he readily accuses anyone who disagrees with him on certain topics of being deranged by “identity politics” and political correctness. Ultimately, I think that both Harris and Klein are well-meaning and relatively open-minded but have certain blind spots in their worldviews. Neither one is malevolent. As Harris often says, conversation is all we have — we strive to be charitable in our disagreements.

      • Pizza Pete says

        The whole “I’m just a center-left policy wonk” schtick wore thin with Klein years ago. Vox is ideological flash cards for dummies and is best thought of as a slightly less ugly and stupid sibling of Salon. Klein, while even tempered, is an ideologue. Vox’s push to smear both Harris and Murray is not defensible. That it is not career ruining for those two is not the point. The purpose is to intimidate those with lesser platforms from open debate. Klein’s implicit message is that language and knowledge should be policed, and why not by a clerisy of smug millennial petty authoritarians? Klein is absolutely malevolent and has a long record of coordinating media for partisan ends. The mask slipped a long time ago, and by now we should be able to look past the even-keeled temperament that he projects over his brand.

        • Are you interested in “open debate”? Do you honestly think you’re not an ideologue yourself? Instead of providing arguments and evidence, you resort to insult and hyperbole. I think it’s more constructive to focus on the content of people’s claims and ideas than dismiss them as “stupid,” “petty,” “malevolent” “authoritarians.” Did you think Klein failed to make any valid points, or that Harris and Murray are without fault? Apparently Quillette doesn’t attract commenters who are willing to engage in reasoned and nuanced conversation. Good to know – I’ll look elsewhere for interlocutors who are willing to think critically about their own commitments.

          • Pizza Pete says

            @KAD

            No, I don’t think Klein made any particularly valid points.

            The Vox piece, “Charles Murray is once again peddling junk science about race and IQ,” subtitled, “Podcaster and author Sam Harris is the latest to fall for it,” at best obfuscated scientific facts. At best.

            So what do this piece and Ezra Klein’s more recent responses tell us about how Klein perceives science inconvenient to policy rationales? That it is good and just to slander anyone who dares discuss such knowledge. And if the sliming doesn’t take, well, intentions were good and no one was harmed anyway so who cares? (‘Charles Murray just won a $200k award! I should be free to say whatever I want about him!’)

            Setting aside Murray’s policy prescriptions, which absolutely can be done, Murray’s larger thesis is fact-based. Lower IQ groups are being stratified in society with disastrous social consequences. I can attest to this from having spent several years amidst low-IQ, downwardly mobile, primarily white social chaos because of a work assignment.

            What the best policy prescriptions are for these problems is an important debate that we can meet in the middle to have. But Ezra Klein, just like anyone else, should have to make his argument in the context of facts and evidence. That he feels morally justified in trying to slander those he disagrees with prior to making his case is reprehensible.

            To add to the point that you can separate science and policy, my political and policy preferences are likely closer to Harris and Klein’s in terms of redistributionism than Murray.

            Klein is a mealy-mouthed obscurantist and should be treated as such. He should focus less on taking cheap shots and more on arguing why his policy ideas are right. Harris is right that forbidden knowledge on everything from the gender pay gap to Islamists to group differences is fodder for the populist right. It’s way better get it out in the open where better people can discuss it and think through it.

      • kris says

        This was such an intelligent, articulately argued, civilsed and well conducted discussion (Even if a trifle boring and repetitive) between people with quite significantly different views.
        They are both Jews and no doubt it would be racist to claim that such traits are more genetically common among their tribe than you will see among any other peoples on the planet, But i have no problem in making that observation. Science even backs me up that they have 12 point higher IQ on average. But lets not get into that. BTW I am not Jewish.

      • John Owen says

        This debate was my first exposure to Klein and my opinion of him would have been bolstered with the slightest gesture of good faith in walking back his thinly veiled accusations of racism. His goal seems to be for the academic and journalism communities to let social responsibility play an even greater role in governing the exposure and discussion of objective scientific facts. Seems honorable enough; I’m on board and I think most could get at least partially on board with this. I don’t believe, however, that anyone is going to be drawn closer to this methodology by being called racist for not adhering strictly to an arbitrarily adjudicated set of standards though.

        You also brought up Klein’s claim that Murray’s findings are based on a biased treatment of the data. When pressed by Harris, Klein’s only defense of the claim was to point at Murray’s policy choices.

        Chicken or Egg?

        I am not a social scientist and I do not have data but from here it seems like one side of the community is saying that the data and Murray’s conclusions are sound and the other is saying that the data may be good but the eventual social implications are horrible. I don’t believe at this point that Klein has any foundation for an objectively scientific attack on Murray’s findings, and if he does then it would have been a good idea to bring it up in the discussion with Harris. Instead, all I heard was “just look at Murray’s policies!” and “slavery and jim crowe was so bad.”

  14. luis e padron says

    Ezra Klein is 33.
    To paraphrase the great African American hero Black Dynamite, he needs to “shut the f— up when grown folks is talkin’.”

    Too much attention is paid to children these days.

    • Congratulations sir, you have made my morning for two reasons: 1) I haven’t seen Black Dynamite in a while and you reminded me of how awesome it is and 2) the application to Klein is perfect.

    • Mr.uglyman says

      That’s reverse ageism. It’s just as bad as reverse racism only worse.

  15. kris says

    Ezra keeps going on about what we need, instead of science, even if true, is yet more talk about slavery, the injustices and suffering of black people and the use of identity politics that would be much more helpful in future. As far as I can remember and I am not young, is that we have been endlessly bombarded with black problems and the social injustices done to them, for what seems like forever and where has that got anyone?
    To where we are now with the divide greater than ever. That is the point that Ezra fails to grasp. Identity politics and victimisation that he champions so eloquently have achieved precisely the opposite of what he claims so disingenuously to desire. It has robbed black people of the dignity and self esteem and desire and motivation to improve their lives. If a white male (Wrong identity) is not allowed to comment on such matters then listen to all the black champions of self autonomy like Larry Elder, Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington who are just the ones I have heard recently among the very many out there.

  16. Anthony Ratay says

    How does the Asian angle get ignored during the claims or racisim. Is anyone claiming either Murray or Harris of Asian supremacy? I’m lead to believe that the data says that Asians have the highest IQ as a group but the claims of supremacy are always geared into the false dischotemy of just brown/White dynamics. The claim of historic racisim is a wash in my opinion because all minority groups including ones now accepted as white(Irish, Italian, etc) we’re marginalized in the past. Should the claim be properly packed as Murray and Harris, “white mediocritsts”.

  17. Zack says

    Ezra Klein is the same pompous, holier-than-thou armchair psychoanalyst we all met in college who can only reply with what amounts to “At least I’m biased toward the right viewpoint.” Only difference is he quit smoking weed early enough to be willfully blinded by his own confirmation bias and even capitalize on it.

  18. Ken Smith says

    “Identity Before Essence?” Sam Harris vs. Ezra Klein (April 2018)



    Fascinating discussion!

    Trying to dig down to the deeper philosophical roots, it appears Ezra believes in “identity before essence,” essence in this definition being empirical fact. Sam was arguing articulately for essence before identity (e.g., empirical fact being the primary value, around which we should consider issues of identity and policy).

    This seems a mirror of the old existentialist perspective which places the human at the center of the cosmos, and interprets empirical facts in the light of this humanity. Empirical facts that don’t accord well with this humanity are pushed aside or said to be partial or misleading or missing context, or just plain false. Overemphasizing said fact or using it to shape social policy is thought to be a potential sin against the human. This seems to describe Ezra’s view.

    Contra the existentialist view are empiricists who believe in the reality and substantiality of scientifically derived fact, and think that we need to adjust the way we think about our humanity in the light of said fact. Dismissing said fact is regarded as a sin against science. It’s further believed that the interests of science and the interests of humanity are ultimately one.

    Sam seems to fall into this latter category.

  19. Tim Buck II says

    “……….The Left believes a larger government, along with taxpayer-funded social welfare programs, are the only way to reverse the disparate impact of generations of racism……”

    What a ridiculous straw man!! Here in the U.S., governments use private charities and NGOs to deliver some needed social services: American Red Cross for disaster relief, private hospitals to deliver needed medical care to some poor and elderly persons, and so on. Governments generally intervene directly only when the private sector is unable or unwilling to handle a particular social need–and most persons on the political left are OK with that. There aren’t many people arguing on principle that the Red Cross should be disbanded, for example.

    Racism is one of those large-scale problems that require a governmental response. Private groups like the NAACP are fine but are not sufficient to the need.

  20. Egads the points expressed above are exactly the sort of ideological or identity tribalism that Klein notes concerning Harris, you know just say freedom five times and life will be good, no need for bad government. Or say data and science and you’ve said it all. But I want to stress something different than my sense that libertarian thought is just plain silly. How many have taught or managed people of all races and education? What exactly is IQ, I sure as heck don’t know as people I’ve managed who tested high didn’t work high. Are tests all we need to be scientific? Even in our large family we differ so much there must be something wrong. So saying data/science and you’ve said something. Nah, I don’t buy it. Oh and Asians are becoming like Americans now, I know lots of teachers too. Harris let me down I thought him a deeper thinker. By the way we had DNA testing and are all over the place, but again maybe the sample data is too small. Or maybe it proves we are more complicated than simple data. Challenge yourself read for a change, here are two for starters. ‘Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class’ by Ian Haney López and “White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide” by Carol Anderson

    “What white people have to do is try and find out in their own hearts why it was necessary to have a ‘nigger’ in the first place, because I’m not a nigger, I’m a man. But if you think I’m a nigger, it means you need him. The question you’ve got to ask yourself, is, if you invented him, you the white people invented him, then you’ve got to find out why. And the future of the country depends on that, whether or not it is able to ask that question.” James Baldwin

    “White children, in the main, and whether they are rich or poor, grow up with a grasp of reality so feeble that they can very accurately be described as deluded–about themselves and the world they live in. White people have managed to get through their entire lifetimes in this euphoric state, but black people have not been so lucky: a black man who sees the world the way John Wayne, for example, sees it would not be an eccentric patriot, but a raving maniac.” James Baldwin

    • Anthony Ratay says

      It’s not just a white person thing, all races have racist in them. Go to Hawaii, guess what the Hawaiians Call white people. It’s a tribal thing and it’s not going away, you want to end racism you have to end group identity wholly otherwise some agent will propose the us or them scenario and some portion of that population will follow. Rinse and repeat.

  21. Anthony Ratay says

    In your examples you are describing how genes operate. Of corse family members will be different they have 2 sets of genes that get molded into 1 set. During that process segments of those genes are lost or altered thus they express themselves differently and make up all the traits we recognize about ourselves. Phenotypes if you want to google it. Other then that I would suggest that you’re posting racists ideas by James Baldwin. Making claims the way he did in your examples seems equal to me to
    some the base level of racisim you could expect from the south in the 1950s. I also don’t understand what you mean when you sa Asian are becoming like Americans. Asians are an ethnic group and Americans are a nationality and they already cross over, Asian Americans. I like your open mind on these issues, hope i am not coming off as an asshole. Have a great day!!

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